Telework is popular, but for different reasons geographically and demographically

Staples have released results of their third annual telecommuting survey which confirm some of the most obvious assumptions but also reveal a few surprises:

  • A better work/life balance — this ranks as the number one reason employees want to telecommute (74%).
  • Transportation savings and green benefits — 69% and 47%, respectively.
  • Reduced stress — stress at work must be on the rise, because 69% identify this as a major benefit of telecommuting, up from 48% from 2012.
  • Happiness — 65% of employers report happier workers when telecommuting is an option.
  • Reduced absenteeism — 33% of employers note absenteeism down when telecommuting is allowed.
  • Demographics — 56% Millennials say phone/mobile device is most important tool, 28% for Gen X, and 19% of Boomers. Gen X and Boomers said laptop was most important, 62% and 66% respectively. Boomers are driven by transport savings (77%), contrasted with work/life balance for Gen X (80%) and Millennials (69%).
  • Geography — In the Northeast transportation savings was the largest reason to telework at 71%, while in the other quadrants work/life balance won out: South 73%, Midwest 86%, and West 83%.

Even though companies are allowing people to work from home and to bring their own devices to their work, there are still some gaps that need to be worked out:

  • Security — Only 25% of companies train their employees in data backup and security  practices.
  • VPN — 64% of employees say poor VPN connection is their biggest technology barrier when working at home.
  • Connectivity — 58% of employers say telecommuters have connectivity issues several time per month or more.
  • Furniture — Only 10% of employers offer business-appropriate furniture to telecommuters.

The experts consulted on these results suggest that employers should respond to the desires of the workforce — who are willing to trade other benefits for telecommuting, and where 71% say  it is important when considering employment — but they should put together programs to counter the problems identified above, especially the first two considerations — security and VPN — which are largely in the control of the company. But it’s evident that telecommuting is highly desirable, and people are willing to sit at a kitchen table — if necessary — to be able to attain a greater degree of work/life balance and reduce stress.


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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

Managing Director Gigaom Research

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